We rode on the Durango-Silverton Railway today. This line is a tourist line, a narrow gauge railway that winds through the mountains of southwest Colorado. In the days of active mining use, the line brought in more money from gold mining, but more tonnage from silver mining (hence the town of Silverton). Now, it is a very popular tourist line.
Today, we caught the 8:30 am train out of Durango to Silverton. We rode in an open air gondola near the back of the coal-fired train, pulled by Engine #482, built by Baldwin Locomotive in 1925. I tried to take lots of pictures, but the lighting was strange, and the sky washed out completely in most of my photos. Here is one photo of one of the watering towers along the way:
The watering towers seen here are not actually used. There is a secondary tank not too far away that is actually used for watering the locomotives. We spoke with the brakeman for quite some time, and he said that the train uses 15,000 gallons of water for a full trip to Silverton and back. The water comes from a small creek and a nearby spring, but they can pull water directly from the Animas River if needed. He also said that they are using a bit more water these days, as the locomotive sprays the ground nearby with water to help extinguish any cinders that might otherwise start a fire near the tracks.
The engine also used about 5.5 tons of coal to get to and from Silverton. The tender carried 11 tons, so we had more than enough. However, a few weeks earlier, there were some major rock slides that isolated a train along the route, and more coal had to be brought in to move the train once the debris had cleared.
Along the way, we passed the Tacoma power station. I have no idea if it is still in operation, but I did take its picture:
There were several stops along the route, including a resort where people can learn to use ziplines, and a meadow where we dropped off a private party for a wedding. When we approached the zipline training, one of the trainers zipped between trees upside down to see if anyone noticed.
The wedding was also hilarious, as everyone was dressed in old west clothes. Furthermore, the father of the bride held an old single barrel shotgun, and the bride’s brother held a toy pistol to the back of the groom, who was blindfolded so that he could not see the bride until it was time to get married.
Right before Silverton, the Mineral Creek had something in it that deposited a strange yellow layer on all of the rocks. Everything was a strange technicolor- the river was turquoise, the rocks at river level were yellow (but were red and blue where dry), plus the green of the pine trees, a white sky, and black smoke from the engine. I tried several times to capture of picture of this, and the closest I was able to come is shown here:
After 45 miles (and several hours) we arrived in Silverton. We had approximately an hour and a half to play around in Silverton before we needed to board the train again. JoAnna searched for a memory card for her camera, as she filled hers up on the trip to Silverton. I did a little light shopping (including a few Christmas presents…) and then went to Natalia’s Restaurant and picked up a few elk burgers for lunch. Natalia’s used to be a brothel; there was a hidden stairwell that led upstairs. The stairwell had long been blocked off, but apparently, you go see the hidden stairwell when you go to Natalia’s. The elk burgers were a little dry, but in general, very good.
At 2:05pm, we boarded the #482 engine back out of Silverton towards Durango. The sun had come out just slightly, so the lighting was still terrible on the way back. Even so, I managed to take several pictures of the train along the edge of the river:
Once we arrived in Durango, I snapped a photo of Engine #482 as it awaited being idled for the night. The brakeman told us that they burn wood pellets in the engine overnight to keep it hot, but still minimize the soot in town.